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Regional Studies

Master's Degree Programmes Contact Information

Division of Biogeoscience
Division of Geology and Geochemistry
Division of Urban Geograpahy and Regional Studies
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P.O. Box 64
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

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Institute of Seismology

P.O. Box 68
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

phone +358 294 1911 (university exchange)
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Palaeobiology and Palaeoclimatology

The subject of Palaeobiology and Palaeoclimatology is the history of life on Earth under changing climates and environments. Research in the division of geology focuses on climate, vegetation and faunas of the Cenozoic, the last 65 million years. Special foci during recent decades have been the evolution of Northern Hemisphere climates and plant-eating mammals of the Miocene (23-5 million years ago) and the history of global climate, vegetation and fauna during the last glacial and the last l few millennia.

Professors in charge: Mikael Fortelius ja Heikki Seppä

The Master’s Program of Palaeobiology and Palaeoclimatology offers tuition in English. The Professors in charge are Mikael Fortelius and Heikki Seppä.

Teaching in palaeobiology and palaeoclimatology

In addition to a growing number of courses given regularly, teaching is supplemented through seminars on subjects ranging from classic to current topics in palaeobiology and palaeoclimatology. Teaching is closely integrated with research, including student participation in both experimental and analytical projects. Participation in international field work is also facilitated, allowing the student entry into world leading research at an early stage. Formal courses in palaeobiology include “Ecomorphology of Fossil Mammals”, “All About Teeth” and occasional special courses on variable topics, including courses given by international visitors. Other regular basic courses include lecture series such as “Introduction to Biostratigraphy”, “Introduction to Quaternary Geology” and “Palaeoclimatology”. Irregular high level courses, for example “Pollen analysis”, “Methods in Diatom Research”, “Palaeoceanography” and “Cladocera course”, deepen the understanding of the field. Sedimentology is also taught in this programme.

Research in palaeobiology and palaeoclimatology

One focus of research is the function and evolution of fossil mammals under changing conditions. The group of Fortelius is world-leading in the use of the mammalian fossil record to reconstruct past climates and the evolutionary dynamics of evolving mammal assemblages. A special focus is the understanding and applied use of mammalian tooth wear in palaeobiology. The research is strongly multidisciplinary, and important facets include ecology, developmental biology, climate modelling, data analysis and mathematical modelling of evolutionary dynamics. Palaeontological field work in Asia and Africa has long been part of the research. Anu Kaakinen is currently responsible for the field-based studies of Palaeogene and Neogene terrestrial environments, with a special focus on the sedimentology and stratigraphy.

Seppä’s group works at the interfaces of geological, biological, and climatological sciences. Main research topics are the continental climatic changes during the glacials and interglacials, especially in the arctic and boreal zones and in monsoonal Asia. The group has been involved in developing and using various quantitative reconstruction techniques based on biological and physical proxies. Palaeoclimatological research includes close collaboration with palaeoclimatic modelers and marine geologists. Key issues in palaeoecological studies are the postglacial dynamics of arctic and boreal forest, peatland, and lake ecosystems under changing climatic conditions. Interactions and feedback systems between the climate and ecosystems dynamics has emerged as an important research topic. Fieldwork campaigns are frequently carried out for example in the arctic regions and eastern Asia.